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Face from the past at the British Art Fair

A rare self-portrait with glasses and cap of the artist David Bomberg features at the British Art Fair currently showing at the Mall Studios

15 September, 2017 — By Gerald Isaaman

David Bomberg’s self-portrait, 1937

A FORGOTTEN and almost lost self-portrait by the artist David Bomberg is on show – and up for sale at an undisclosed price – at the British Art Fair, now open until Sunday at the Mall Studios, off Trafalgar Square, thanks to art dealer Agi Katz, who lives in Highgate.

She bought the 1937 portrait and another Bomberg did of his artist wife, Lilian Holt, at a charity auction in London after they had been found tucked away by the son of the founder of what was the Fischer Fine Art Gallery, late of St James’s, in Vienna.

And they are a rare reminder of the sad life and times of Bomberg (1890-1957), who has been described as one of the most audacious of the artists who studied at the Slade under Henry Tonks, among them Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler and CRW Nevinson, who all found themselves early studio space in Hampstead.

Bomberg too – he lived in Fordwych Road at one time – whose work combined the influences of Cubism and Futurism in the run-up to the First World War when he joined up.

But, as with others, his existence was shattered by life in the trenches of death. He later travelled widely and ended up teaching the likes of Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff.

He never achieved the success his potential suggested and in fact died penniless and bankrupt, which is one reason why Agi Katz, who escaped the Hungarian revolution of 1956 as an 18-year-old student, has championed the work of artists such as Bomberg, Josef Herman, Jacob Epstein and Gertler.

“Bomberg did his self-portraits in 1931 and this one now on show is the only portrait from 1937,” she said. “And this is a special self-portrait because he never did one in which he is wearing glasses and also a cap.

“It is surprising that this painting and the one of Lilian Holt, who had a special relationship with the Fischer Gallery, were not exactly hidden but kept in storage in Vienna. So the paintings have an excellent provenance.”

• For details see www.britishartfair.co.uk

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